The North American Division Union presidents presented to the General Conference president and officers an antagonistic statement in the January 19, 2017 meeting. The NAD leaders indicated while they see no consensus favoring women’s ordination among church members in the NAD, that the General Conference in seeking to maintain unity in the church, is overreaching its authority. The NAD Union Presidents’ statement offers no Scripture in defense of its position. Nor does it acknowledge the authority of the world church in its July 8, 2015 San Antonio vote which refused to authorize actions presently being taken within the North American Division to ordain women to the gospel ministry.
The presidents claimed “strong personal and collective unity” with the church, but also indicated themselves to be unified in support of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry, an unscriptural innovation which the Church has never, since its inception, practiced. The Union presidents go so far as to offer their “personal general observations” that in the NAD unions, membership sustains “a grass roots support for women’s ordination,” with “opposition in a few conferences.”
We believe that actually, the majority of church members in NAD oppose women’s ordination, and that the most telling statement in the document is the presidents’ claim that “An inclusive NAD survey taken in 2014 of conference, union and division leadership revealed a 90%-plus approval of women’s ordination” in the Division. That claim may actually be correct. If so, it points out the extreme disconnect between leadership and membership within the Division. The NAD presidents are trapped in an echo chamber of their own, and are operating in rejection of the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to them through the world church.
The presidents’ document claims that they “acknowledge the conscientious convictions” of those who oppose women’s ordination. But actually those who oppose the practice have been shut out of the main publications of the church. Excluded from publishing in union papers or the Adventist Review, these Adventists whose convictions are allegedly so respected have been refused opportunity to publish on NAD-run denominational presses and their only recourse has been to publish privately.
Even NAD young adults have been marginalized by NAD leadership, as evident in the video above.
The January 19 statement complains about the General Conference’s rejection years ago of NAD’s attempt to change the E-60 Working Policy. Read about the current NAD president’s role in that debacle in “E-60 and the WO Endgame” at http://ordinationtruth.com/featured/kirl-e60-and-the-wo-endgame/. On the even longer history of NAD’s decision to block opposing viewpoints and use NAD publications for pro-women’s ordination propaganda, read the 1997 NAD’s own words in “President’s Commission on Women in Ministry Report” at http://ordinationtruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Presidents-Commission-on-Women-in-Ministry-Report.pdf
Notable is statement number six in the document: “We believe the GC is dangerously overreaching its authority and potentially endangering the current and future unity and mission of the church (see SOP below).” But the statement goes on to say that “Non-doctrinal issues on which we have no consensus are not a basis for splitting the church.”
Then why is the North American Division leadership determined to split the Church? Are they so trapped within the culture they are charged to witness God’s revealed truth to, that they would burn down the Church rather than subordinate themselves to the humble, Spirit-led decision reached in General Conference Session after so much study and prayer?
This week will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many readers will be aware that in 2015 General Conference delegates in session voted to reject a proposal to let each division executive committee to decide for itself whether or not to make provision for the ordination of women. The world church made a global decision, the result of which was to follow the biblical practice and the from-the-beginning-of-the-Adventist-Church until now global practice of only ordaining qualified male spiritual leaders.
After the session, some elements of the church in Europe and in North America continued and increased in their defiance of the world church.
At Annual Council in October 2016 General Conference leadership brought a fair-minded proposal for reconciliation procedures to help the disobedient sections of church leadership be kept accountable and help the church draw together in united practice in harmony with the decision made by the world church. Many NAD leaders aggressively fought the proposal. Nevertheless, it passed and the reconciliation procedures are now being applied. Leaders from the General Conference will meet with North American Division Union leadership in a special meeting to be held this week on January 19. Some NAD leaders have called for special prayer for these meetings. It is a good time to pray for these meetings.
While there were numerous quite contentious comments made by NAD leaders who are advocates of WO at the meeting, The Council of Adventist Pastors thought readers might find it encouraging to recapitulate again some truth-telling comments made by faithful leaders at that meeting held three months ago. For example, Dan Houghton offered the following observations:
“I’m extremely puzzled by this discussion, and I want to speak in favor of this motion. Its seems to me that 90% of everything that’s been said has been re-litigating what happened in San Antonio. . . And I would just like to say, that there are lots of people watching this proceeding, right now, around our country, with different ideas. The question I have, Does a vote in General Conference session mean anything? Does it mean anything? We spent five years, and I don’t know how many dollars, preparing for Indianapolis, and we took a vote. And there was a vote. This is really not about women’s ordination, and cannot be; we cannot make it that. Does this Church have a unity,? And does it have an authority? I would encourage those of my brothers and sisters who I love, they’re my friends, to find a different way to express their frustration with that vote, than undermining the authority and the unity of this Church.”
Some had insinuated that the General Conference, in seeking compliance with the 2015 GC session decision, was exercising kingly power. But Dr. Clinton Wahlen in speaking from the floor contradicted that claim with facts:
“Mr. Chairman, there is a difference between local policies, and policies voted by the General Conference session. The situation before us today, is, in some important respects, unprecedented. That’s why a focused solution is needed. The events leading to non-compliance with the San Antonio vote were not accidental. A great deal of energy was expended on crafting proposals for constituency meetings to act on, and these deliberate efforts have placed some unions and conferences in non-compliance. This situation arises from deep theological convictions that have been held for a very long time. Following the vote in San Antonio, a formal appeal was made on August 17, 2015 by the GC Secretariat to each division, kindly asking every entity to come into alignment with the world church. . . The time has come to take action. I appeal to this body to choose the solution that policy already provides, and that the Secretariat’s recent Unity document suggests. Quoting B05.3, ‘Organizational membership and status are entrusted to entities that meet certain qualifications, including faithfulness to Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, compliance with denominational practices and policies, demonstration of adequate leadership and financial capacity, and responsiveness to mission challenges and opportunities. Membership and status can be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it.’ Please hear this final appeal from Jody, a constituent of one of the non-compliant unions: ‘I feel that my local church, my conference, and my union are the ones with the kingly power. It is frustrating wanting to be unified with the GC under the layers of three uncooperative kingly powers. I want to be made whole with the world church.’ We need to consider her plea and the cry of many thousands like her.”
Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore, stated:
“I’m disappointed to hear so many references made that the issue that faced the General Conference in San Antonio is some kind of minor policy. That motion required a vote based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We spent months and years, through all kinds of committees, to get to the place where this Church could vote on that issue. At this point, the issue is no longer that issue. The issue is the unity of the church. And the unity of the church is not maintained by pluralism. If we want to try to find a way that’s painless, to keep the unity of the church, we can go down the road of pluralism, but it will be very, very costly in the end. Redemptive discipline is painful. Its patient. Its full of love. And this document, I believe, gives us the start on that. We cannot as a Church maintain our unity, and allow people who oppose the world church, to simply accomplish what they wanted by default, by the Church never addressing the issue.”
We accept the decision at San Antonio, and we believe the Church needs to move forward united. Our prayers go up for church leaders to be resolute in helping the NAD Unions come into the harmony that Jesus desires. Most members in North America want to move forward united as a world church. We are not going to ordain women to the gospel ministry, because to engage in that new practice would mean to abandon the correct understanding of Biblical interpretation that this church was founded on.
The prayers that go up this week ought not be for permission to disobey the leading of God’s Spirit but for courage to surrender a pet idea rejected by the world church at San Antonio. There remains opportunity for NAD leadership to come into harmony with the world church. For this our prayers are ascending.